Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Economy | By

Google plans not to renew military deal protested by employees

Google plans not to renew military deal protested by employees

Update: In response to backlash from Google employees, the company has made a decision to end its relationship with the Department of Defense after its current contract expires in 2019, as Gizmodo reports.

About a dozen Google employees have quit over Maven. Google's participation in the program, which critics contend could help increase the accuracy of drone-missile strikes, sparked controversy both inside and outside of Google.

The project was meant to assist the Defense Department in analyzing drone footage in order to develop new kinds of drone technology.

Diane Greene, the chief executive of Google's influential cloud-computing business, told employees of the decision at an internal meeting on Friday first reported by Gizmodo.

The New York Times writes that when Google purchased the artificial intelligence firm DeepMind 2014, "The acquisition agreement [.] said DeepMind technology would never be used for military or surveillance purposes".

But Greene, who leads Google Cloud, told employees that the company had endured considerable backlash and pursued the work at a time when the company was more interested in military contracts, according to Gizmodo.

In April up to 4,000 Google employees signed an open letter saying that by its involvement in the project the internet giant was putting users' trust at risk, as well as ignoring its "moral and ethical responsibility". Thousands of staff signed the petition, which stated: "Google should not be in the business of war". For a tech company that heralded itself as one that values the views and perspectives of its employees, Google has worked to reduce protests without pivoting away from military partnerships. A budget document from the Department of Defense issued in 2011 references the successful "integration of data from Google Earth" into its RealWorld program, a piece of software meant to allow warfighters to simulate and rehearse missions from a laptop computer.

The current contract expires in 2019. According to Gizmodo: "Google meant to build a "Google Earth-like" surveillance system that would allow Pentagon analysts to "click on a building and see everything associated with it" and build graphs of objects like vehicles, people, land features, and large crowds for 'the entire city'".

Internal emails exchanged among Google executives show that Project Maven, despite its controversial nature, was to set the stage for a broader push for lucrative military contracts.

We've reached out to Google and The Pentagon for more information.

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